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5 Things to Know About the Combative Stage of Alzheimer’s Disease

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Alzheimer’s disease is progressive in nature, meaning those with the condition often display mild difficulties at first before showing more noticeable symptoms involving memory and behavior. However, mood swings can start early on, and they may include anxiety and irritability. But the combative stage, which involves more agitation and aggression, usually occurs during the later stages of the disease. Below you’ll find five facts to help you better understand the combative stage of Alzheimer’s.

1. Physical Discomfort Can Be a Factor

Combative or aggressive behavior in seniors with Alzheimer’s is sometimes linked to physical discomfort. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, this can happen because of an inability to verbally express or clearly articulate symptoms associated with certain physical conditions. A senior with Alzheimer’s might become combative or physically aggressive in an attempt to let someone know something is wrong. Physical discomfort in those with Alzheimer’s may be related to:

• Medication side effects
• Undiagnosed urinary tract infections
• Age-related joint or spine problems
• Dental problems

Mental issues such as depression and anxiety can result in similar behavioral problems. Lack of sufficient sleep is another possible factor.

The cognitive challenges that accompany Alzheimer’s often leave aging adults unable to manage everyday tasks, which puts their safety and health at risk. If your senior loved one needs help managing an illness or assistance with daily tasks, make sure you choose a top-rated provider of elder care. Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one live a happier and healthier life in the golden years. From the mentally stimulating activities in our Cognitive Therapeutics Method to our friendly Care Managers who are available to answer your questions 24 hours a day, we offer a wide array of high-quality at-home care services.

2. Aggression Is Sometimes Linked to the Senior’s Environment

Older adults with Alzheimer’s sometimes become combative or aggressive because they’re having difficulty processing things going on in their environment. For instance, your senior loved one may become more combative if you’re trying to help him or her get dressed or do his or her daily grooming routine with a TV playing loudly in the background. Similar issues may develop due to:

• Being around too many unfamiliar people
• Trying to function while in large crowds
• Being exposed to unfamiliar scents or sounds

3. Poor Communication May Trigger Aggression

Combative behavior may be related to the way you communicate with your loved one. For example, if you give instructions on how to do a certain task and you’re not clear enough, frustration may lead to an outburst. Some seniors with Alzheimer’s also get combative or aggressive if they’re being asked too many questions at once or if they feel overwhelmed with information. It’s even possible for your own stress and anxiety to make your loved one feel more agitated.

Professional caregivers with specialized experience in Alzheimer’s care can be a wonderful source of support for older adults with the disease. Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Lehigh Valley Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care.

4. Combative Behavior Can Be Unpredictable

Each senior with Alzheimer’s reacts differently when becoming agitated or aggressive. Some reactions might involve verbally lashing out or making defensive body movements, such as folding the arms or turning the head away. However, some individuals become physically aggressive and combative to the point where caregivers feel threatened.

5. There Are Things Caregivers Can Do

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), combative or aggressive behavior in seniors with Alzheimer’s usually has a cause. The challenge is actually identifying the source when your loved one isn’t able to come right out and tell you. One step you can take is to think about the situation to determine if there’s something that may be confusing or overstressing your loved one. Other possible ways to handle combative behavior include:

• Looking for signs of pain
• Taking your loved one to the doctor or calling emergency services if you suspect a medical issue
• Focusing on your loved one’s feelings and emotions and not the actual words or phrases he or she is using
• Avoiding confrontations by remaining calm and speaking slowly and clearly
• Minimizing distractions as much as possible (e.g., eliminating background noise when eating)
• Planning complicated activities during times of the day when your loved one is usually calmer
• Shifting to relaxing activities, such as listening to music, if your loved one is becoming increasingly agitated
• Giving your loved one a moment to calm down before trying to engage with him or her again

Symptoms such as agitation, confusion, anger, and frustration are common in elderly people with Alzheimer’s. The days, weeks, and months following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be challenging for both seniors and their families. However, these challenges can be made less stressful with the help of caregivers trained in professional Alzheimer’s care. Lehigh Valley Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one enjoy the golden years while simultaneously managing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. To learn more about our reliable, compassionate in-home care services, contact us at 484-350-3874 today.